About 30 minutes in to the second set of Phish’s show at Star Lake, Yohe turned to me and said, “You got it.”
He’s seen Phish many more times than I have, and he’s as good at picking out Phish songs as I was with the Grateful Dead. At some point before that, I mentioned that I really wanted to hear a Piper Thursday night; the song itself is short but interesting, two lines of lyrics repeated in a round over a melody that picks up steam as it rolls downhill. I know the song very well, but on Thursday night, Yohe recognized it before I did.
But the good part usually comes after the singing is done. Piper is a platform the band likes to jump from; once they do, they can go anywhere, and they generally do so at high velocity. I’d seen the song a couple times before, and the version at Saratoga in 2004 really stands out for me. Before winding down after 31 minutes, the band hit on two separate jams that had nothing to do with the original tune; the best one was a thunderous re-arrangement of Tweezer Reprise that set off cheers even on the farthest reaches of the oversold lawn.
Thursday’s Piper did it again, following the band around a curve and reconvening in an entirely different musical location. And that’s why I love these guys.
The recent Piper was a relatively tight 12-minute version; I was still awfully happy to hear it again. In fact, the whole setlist was enough to keep me grinning all night:
Set 1: Golgi Apparatus / Chalkdust Torture / Bouncing Around The Room / Wolfman’s Brother / The Divided Sky / Heavy Things / Walk Away / Wilson / Tube / Alaska / David Bowie
Set 2: Down With Disease / Free / Guyute / Piper / When The Circus Comes To Town / Harry Hood / The Squirming Coil / You Enjoy Myself
Encore: Grind / Hello My Baby / Hold Your Head Up / Bike / Hold Your Head Up / Loving Cup
There were more than enough personal firsts to keep me happy: Chalkdust, Bouncing, Heavy Things, DWD, Free, Hood, Coil and the entire encore were among my personal debuts. But it wasn’t just the list. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect a little rust from a band on its first tour since 2004; I heard a couple things when I listened to the tapes the next day, but overall, the band is exceptionally tight. They’ve made an effort to re-learn what they’re playing. The proof is especially visible in the heavily arranged earlier songs we heard: they didn’t just take a stab at The Divided Sky, Coil or YEM — they nailed them.
* Mrs. Crappy had a couple of big highlights as well. Bouncing has always been one of her favorite Phish songs, and she was thrilled to finally hear it. And when we saw YEM in Camden in 2004, she left to go to the bathroom just as Trey and Mike started on the trampolines; I couldn’t get her attention in time and she missed it then. On Thursday night, she got to see the whole thing.
* When I listened to the tapes of the Hampton run, I noticed Page McConnell taking a front-and-center role; that continued on Thursday. That’s a good thing.
* Much of the encore was done acapella. They started Hello My Baby after a promise by Trey that if they screwed it up, Fishman would sing Bike. Hysterical, and a kickass vacuum solo as well.
* Trey is a huge hockey fan. No one was surprised to hear Loving Cup at the Pittsburgh show.
* I had maybe the best hot dog I’ve ever had in my life, given to me by a guy who works at an organic meat shop in North Carolina. He and his girlfriend were exceptionally cool people and we had a great time talking with the before the show.
* I still don’t like the stone-and-cinder parking lot at Star Lake, but once you’re inside, they still handle things pretty well.
* Seeing a show with Yohe was as much fun as I imagined it would be. Think we’ll be hanging with him again, at Wilco in Niagara Falls next month and at the Phish show at Darien in August.
* When we saw the Dead in Philly, I waited for a week before the band had its soundboard recording ready to download. Phish had its copy of the Star Lake show ready before Mrs. Crappy and I went to bed early Friday morning. I’m just sayin’…